Debate on controversial West Van development draws passionate crowd
How tall should buildings be along Marine Drive in West Vancouver?
This was the complex question that brought hundreds out to a council meeting on Monday evening.
Wearing tags saying “No more than 4”, a passionate group of West Van residents came out to oppose two proposed buildings, one seven storeys and the other eight, that are planned for the 1300-block of Ambleside. They say the buildings are too tall, block views and would ruin the seaside community.
But this time they were met by another group of residents who want the development to go ahead. They say Ambleside is in need of revitalization, and building the mixed commercial-residential buildings, which will include public space, is an important step.
On the table for discussion were recommendations from city staff about what Grosvenor, the site’s developer, could do to make the project better. The list included reducing the building height by around nine metres (30 feet), which Grosvenor agreed to do by taking off one storey, effectively creating two seven-storey buildings, which would house 23 storefronts and 88 residential suites, ranging from under 1,500 square feet to over 2,500. Other demands included creating smaller, more affordable suites and additional public parking.
“This project cannot be viewed in isolation as it sets a template for everything that’s going to happen between 13th and 18th [streets],” said Tim Arnold, who lives in Ambleside. “If approved as is, everyone is going to try for these special zones.”
Revitalizing Ambleside doesn’t need to include “highrises,” he added as the audience clapped and cheered.
Stopping people outside the meeting, the Ambleside Dundarave Ratepayers Association says it has around 1,400 signatures opposing the project the way it is now. But others want the development.
“The design reflects extensive community input and values. It’s an exciting building in true West Coast style, and not just another box like so much of our architecture,” said West Van resident Stephanie LaPorta, who says she has collected over 200 signatures of support.
Mayor Michael Smith had strong words for both council members and the public who are opposed to the plans or want them altered significantly. “The reality is, I don’t see businesses lining up to invest in Ambleside,” he told council. “We finally have a quality developer who does, and we want to send them out of this council chamber with their tail between their legs? I just don’t get it.”
With “countless hours” spent on studies and public consultations on Ambleside, he said it’s about time Ambleside is revitalized.
“Our real estate agents refer to the 1300-block… as the Gaza Strip. A great comment on Canada’s most desirable residential community,” he said. “It’s a disgrace. We’ve sat here as citizens and allowed it to go on.”
In a 5-1 vote, council recommended staff work with Grosvenor on the 10 recommendations. Revised plans will be presented in the next few months.